2016 General Elections: A crucial moment for Ghana

by Kwabena Opong

Ghanaians face a crucial moment in their nation’s history as they go to the polls to se- lect a new government and a new parliament for the next four years on December 7 this year. Ideologically the

two major parties, the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) claim to be dif- ferent but the NDC that con- siders itself as a social democratic party cannot be said to be any different from the NPP which touts a conservative laissez faire agenda. The upcoming elections happen to be crucial for several reasons but most importantly, it would determine how the nation’s economy would be managed in the next four years and how the Ghanaian people would fare under the incoming administration. The eight-year rule of the NPP from 2001 to 2009 saw significant changes in Ghana in all sectors. Whatever form of infrastructural develop- ment in existence even at this time of the Mahama adminis- tration is primarily a reflec- tion of the NPP administration under John Agyekum Kufuor. Surely the Rawlings administration from the PNDC that morphed into the NDC in 1993 achieved a degree of progress in the economy, it is incom- parable to the NPP’s. According to John Kenneth Galbraith “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.” The dearth of space and time do not allow a complete list of achievements of the NPP.

The first NPP administration achieved many firsts: it intro- duced innovative and several pro-poor programs never be- fore seen in Ghana since in- dependence. Additionally, President Kufuor garnered international acclaim and Ghana’s reputation abroad received a boost never before seen since the CPP administration under Kwame Nkrumah, the country’s first president. The 19-year dictatorship of ex-President J. J. Rawlings leading the PNDC/NDC was characterized by tribalism that was covertly and overtly institutionalized. The rate of inflation rose to more than 40 percent coupled with high interest rate and high unemployment. At the dawn of the new NPP administration, there was worker dissatisfaction marked by strikes and demonstrations by citizens. It is no different today. The economy portended a gloomy future for the nation, and with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank providing guidance as now, the people of Ghana be- came casualties of a failed state and a mismanaged economy. Under the NDC now, Ghanaians are reeling under a heavy load of taxation and once again the people of Ghana have become a casualty under the draconian recommendations of the IMF. The NPP introduced several pro-poor programs that currently merely exist in name only. The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), the free pre-natal services, as well as a school feeding pro- gram have all failed under the Mahama administration of the NDC.

It will be recalled that the NDC’s promise to introduce a one-time payment for the NHIS could not materialize under the NDC. Most health care facilities, particularly those in the private sector refuse to accept the insurance policy. The cash- and-carry policy that was prevalent in the last NDC ad- ministration under President J. J. Rawlings has been rein- stated. The NDC claims to have built more hospitals even as the existing ones are under-equipped, under- staffed and without the needed medication. The agriculture sector has under-performed since 2008. Cocoa production has plummeted to a little more than 600,000 metric tonnes. Ghana once again assumed a second position after Ivory Coast in cocoa production. The Kufuor administration provided free spraying of cocoa farms and made seedlings available for planting. A sustained in- crease in the producer price of cocoa, subsidized fertilizer, prompt payment of bonuses and the importation of 1,331 brand new tractors went a long way in increasing the annual cocoa yield from 350 metric tonnes in 2000 to 750 metric tonnes in 2006 adding an income of US$1bn to the economy.

Under the NPP administration agriculture was given the needed boost and in addition to cocoa produce, crops such as cashew received the atten- tion of the government. Government introduced the Export Development Fund (EDIF) to fund the production of produce for export thanks to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) which made it pos- sible for local producers to access the US market. As well, the Ghana Poverty Re- duction Programs I & II were all introduced to improve the lot of Ghanaians. A lot of people benefitted from the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) where the aged and other vul- nerable people were paid monthly allowances. President John Mahama is on record as saying it is not an achievement for a government to embark on infrastructural development.

After all, he maintains, it is what governments are obliged to do. Indeed his NDC administration has made significant efforts in improving the nation’s infra- structure but in 2009 when the Mills-Mahama adminis- tration assumed office much of what he claims to have done in his seven years had been completed or initiated. The so-called achievements of the Mahama administra- tion has been made at a con- siderable cost. According to Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, running mate to the NPP’s flag bearer, Mahama’s gov- ernment has obtained about US$40 billion but has utilized only US$7.5 billion. And this is in addition to the GHS230 billion in local taxes collected so far as against the NPP’s GHS20 billion in its term of office. If Kufuor could raise internally generated funds for most of the projects in his eight-year term and did so much President John Ma- hama has no reason not to do same with the funds available to him.

Considering that the Kufuor administration discovered oil at the tail end of its tenure and therefore did not have the benefit of income from the commodity as against the Mills-Mahama-led adminis- tration of the NDC the latter should have done much more than Kufuor in developing the West African nation. Ma- hama, it must be said also benefitted from the increased production of gold. Ghanaians are incensed at the blatant misuse of funds and corrupt practices in which government officials are actively involved. The nation’s attorney-general has finally admitted that it can no longer continue with pursuing Alfred Agbesi Woyome for fraudulently receiving a judgment debt of GHS51.2 mil- lion. At the same time, President John Mahama was also relieved from prosecution and impeachment by the Commission for Human Rights and Justice (CHRAJ) for receiving a US$100,000 Ford Expedition vehicle from a Burkinabe contractor. The commission, in spite of its verdict, accused the president of breaching the code of ethics, in itself a crime. The government’s handling of corruption and unethical practices of its officials leaves much to be desired.

The Kufuor administration initiated several hundred units of affordable housing projects some of which are still in uncompleted condi- tions. Water production was improved in such perennially thirsty metropolis as Ko- foridua, Cape Coast, Kibi, parts of Accra, among so many others. In education a couple more public universi- ties were established in addi- tion to several private institutions. The University for Development Studies (UDS) in the northern sector was improved. Its medical school at Nyankpala and Tamale saw a vast improve- ment under President Kufuor. The University College of Education was chartered to become a full-fledged university with campuses spread across the nation. in the meantime, the 38 Teacher Training Colleges were up- graded into tertiary status. To address the accommodation problem in the tertiary institutions, the distance education program, the Untrained Teacher Program, the Access Course to Teacher Training Colleges for SHS graduates who could not do well in Maths and English, all meant not only to upgrade the knowledge of the teacher, but also to beef up the teacher population and subsequently help to address the falling educational standards in the country were established. As we write, some teachers who graduated a few years ago are yet to receive placement to work. Ironically the government claims to have completed more than 100 high schools. The government’s own policy of free education when put under the micro- scope is not free after all. Energy production peaked in the Kufuor administration with additional thermal plants that could produce more than 2,100 megawatts of electricity. What is now known as dumso – erratic and unpredictable power outages – be- came a thing of the past but the Mahama government could not sustain the effort. Today, in spite of irregular supply of energy, high electricity bills for companies and individuals are forcing many corporate bodies to either lay off workers or relocate to jurisdictions where cheaper energy can be obtained. There are plans by the NPP to encourage private investment in alternative energy to facilitate industrialization.

The NPP has plans to direct investment into transportation with the improvement and re- building of the railway sys- tem. In the most parts of the nation the few miles of rail lines have been abandoned and/cannibalized by galam- sey. The road system would also be improved. Uncontrolled illegal mining continues to devastate the country’s environment. Farm- lands and cocoa farms have all fallen victim to what is lo- cally known as galamsey af- fecting cocoa and food production. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo’s mani- festo touches on all sectors of the economy. His promise to give a million US dollars to every constituency as well as one factory per district, if im- plemented, could facilitate the development of the rural areas of the country. The pro- gram would feed on special- ized production of raw materials native to the various areas in the country. Existing roads would be improved and expanded to ease distribution. Hopefully the program will open the country’s interior to foreign direct investment in sectors other than the extrac- tive industry. Youth unem- ployment is adequately addressed in the manifesto, and further to the plan to open up the rural areas for invest- ment, it is expected that the country’s youths would re- main in the rural areas instead of emigrating to the urban areas. Most Ghanaians agree that the NDC is adept at winning elections but may not necessarily be good governors. The Kufuor-led NPP ad- ministration showed its mettle in its open government system. It was Nana Addo who spearheaded the repeal of the draconian anti-free press laws when he was the Attorney-General. The NPP’s adherence to the basics of democracy endeared Ghana and the president to the lead- ing democracies in the world. He was invited to most G8 and G20 meetings and Ghana became a beneficiary of the Millennium Account grant of US$549 million. The country had most of its debt forgiven it. The job of a government is to ensure the enabling environment for prosperity and the NPP with its catchphrase, ‘development in freedom,’ provides the needed atmosphere for development. A prospective Nana Addo-led government would not depart from the Kufuor administration’s plan of achievement. The choice of leadership for Ghana in 2016 is amply sup- ported by empirical evidence. Kufuor made credit for business by both corporate and individuals available. Bank workers chased traders and businesses with credit. This year’s elections may be contentious and the leading par- ties are fighting tooth and nail to grab power, but Abraham Lincoln’s observation should remind them that, “Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”

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